great deal of hard work by engineers, shipbuilders, and construction
workers, our new ferry system started out with two vessels and one
route. The service linked Victoria, the provincial capital on
Vancouver Island, with the City of Vancouver and the rest of
mainland British Columbia.|
Points of departure were Swartz
Bay, on the Victoria side, and Tsawwassen, which is south of
Vancouver. (At Tsawwassen, a two-mile long causeway and an
artificial island had to be created before the ferry terminal could
We first operated under the hefty moniker "British
Columbia Toll Authority Ferry System," and our mission was fairly
straight forward: to provide a safe and dependable marine
transportation link. Over the years our name may have become less of
a mouthful, but the scope and complexity of our operation expanded
exponentially. One thing that did not change in over 40 years of
service was the "dogwood" house flag (see above), which was first
raised on the M.V. Sidney by Highways Minister Phil
Galardi on June 9, 1960.
The first official day of business was June 15, 1960.
The M.V. Tsawwassen and the M.V. Sidney began regular service on one
of the windiest, rainiest days of early summer. But the vessels kept
to their schedules and carried plenty of passengers. In subsequent
months, the weather became something of an ally. Airports were
fogged in much of the time, and many people who would normally fly
across the water ended up busing it out to our terminals. They soon
found that the ferry ride took just a little more time than taking a
plane, but cost a great deal less money. Those discoveries, plus the
quality of the travel experience, proved to be very good for
business. By the end of year one, our fledgling system managed to
turn a profit, and growth followed quickly.
In November 1961,
the Authority acquired the Black Ball Line and took over service
between West Vancouver and mid-Vancouver Island. By late 1962,
Canadian Pacific had conceded its Victoria service to the
Throughout the 1960s, new construction, fleet
acquisitions and route expansion continued until we had reached the
24 ship mark. Part of that route expansion was the 1966 launch of
BC Ferries' Inside Passage service. At that time, we sailed
between Kelsey Bay and Prince Rupert. Today, our Inside Passage trip
runs between Port Hardy and Prince Rupert, and it continues to rank
among the world's great travel experiences.
As our first decade progressed, passenger numbers
continued to rise. So a decision was made to add to our inventory of
deck space by engineering some enlargements. The first part of
BC Ferries' now famous"stretch and lift" program began in 1970
when four of our major vessels were cut down the middle so that an
84-foot midsection could be "spliced" in. Similar operations had
been performed on small boats, but this was the first time large
ships had undergone such extensive alterations.
milestone occurred in 1976, when a new generation of "jumbo ferries"
was launched. By the early 80s, five of these new,double-ended "C"
Class ships had been added to the fleet.
Five years later,
the "lift" part of our "stretch and lift" program was implemented.
Four major vessels were hauled back into dry dock and sliced
horizontally. The two halves were separated from each other, so that
a new upper car deck could be slid into place,thus giving birth to
our "V" Class ships and concluding one of the boldest projects in
the history of marine engineering.
In each case, the object of the game was to meet
constantly increasing demand by coming up with more capacity for
vehicles. Over the first three decades, BC Ferries' methods of
achieving higher efficiency were,by necessity, creative and
As the fourth decade progressed, that tradition of
practical innovation continued with the construction of two massive
Spirit Class vessels and the creation of the fleet's first
aluminum-hulled fast catamaran vessels- the PacifiCats. Three
smaller vessels were built as well, designed to serve the needs of